The subject of the paper is “Formulation of National Policy with regard to Architectural Expression”. Architecture may be simply defined as the synthesis of art and technology of building, an attempt that transforms buildings into sound and beautiful buildings.
Climate, environment, materials and techniques, social forces, and the history of the evolution of architecture are factors governing architectural expression.
Buildings stand between man and vagaries of weather and hence climate exercises a double influence on architecture, since there must be ventilation and light but at the same time there must be protection from extremes of climate.
Architecture expresses man’s constant endeavour to change and improve his physical environment and since buildings shelter man and occupy space, they are capable of creating an atmosphere or environment that helps and promotes happiness or otherwise. Here visual impact of space, scale, light, texture and colour influence the expression in architecture.
Towns and cities came because of man’s desire to live in stable groups. The structure of a society finds expression in the structure of towns and cities, which in turn profoundly influence the structure of society. In Churchill’s oft quoted words “We shape our buildings and afterwards the buildings shape us”. For instance, slums spring up because of architecture ignoring the interest of the society.
A study of evolution of architecture reveals that particular forms and characteristics, in particular areas and during particular periods, found expression in architecture. The history of architecture has left us trends, patterns, causes and effects which are perpetual in their repetition. We cannot afford to ignore this rich experience. The study of this with objective basis and not with sentimental or emotional attachment for tradition has helped the evolution of architecture and its expression.
Materials and techniques of building have a profound influence on architecture. Today, innumerable building materials and building techniques have evolved and are available and they have influenced and are bound to influence the building technique and hence architectural expression. Rapid advancement in the sciences of air-conditioning, artificial lighting, acoustics, and similar services have influenced architectural expression.
The above is an analysis of forces which influence architecture and hence architectural expression, but we might as well add here that, the ultimate architectural expression is the result of proper synthesis of these forces according to their relative importance in a particular problem.
It is not my purpose here to discuss at length the various forces briefly mentioned which influence architectural expression, but at the same time, it is essential to be clear about, what we mean by architectural expression.
Architecture of today is undergoing a rapid change because the forces that influence it arc changing, e.g., transport, communication, modern rapid techniques of building and materials of building which are numerous and complicated and are becoming more and more so, are bound to effect the ways of our life and consequently architecture. A method of construction or design, for instance, evolved in one part of the world is readily available to the rest of the world due to communication, e.g., photograph, whether suitable for adaptation for the other areas or not. An architect in practice has seldom time to explore deeply for principles in the matter of whether a method of building or a new building material is suitable to be adopted in his place of practice—the choice left to him is either that of experiment which may result in chaos or timidity in practice.
As with the technological developments in building which are taking place at an accelerated rate, so with the conflicting stylistic theories. The modern plastic material—concrete and steel, with which almost any form is possible, of frame and envelope, slab and shell affords great scope for evolution of forms but at the same time there is little time for the thought in refining the various forms derived from an engineering possibility.
The third reason for the present chaos in architecture today is because of two groups of architects themselves who are either conservative or radical in their approach. They are either not ready for a change even when the change is inevitable or desirable or are not prepared to leave the old thought habit, or else are radical and are eager, and always prepared for novelty for the sake of novelty alone, too eager to attain success by short-cuts and they act on impulse rather than on deep thinking. The result is ‘Fashions’ are confused with ‘Styles’ Fashions are transitory and are created for the sake of novelty alone, without reasoning, whereas a style is a result of deep thinking and refinement and has merits to recommend. A style affords scope for further evolution. In other words, a style inspires whereas fashions perish. The history of architecture, which repeats itself, has proved this fact in all periods beyond doubts.
This is the picture of architecture today; there is a brighter side too, encouraging and promising. Architecture of today reveals certain inherent qualities which are based on maximum structural economy, flexibility in planning, speed in construction (e.g., prefabrication which had made possible the multi-storeyed buildings of R.C.C. frame or steel skeleton and ‘curtain walls’—this is definitely a departure and an evolution from the conventional methods of building) and beauty is derived from structural coherence.
Architecture of today shows growing awareness of healthy and pleasant surroundings for living and has ceased to be a one-man show but a cooperative effort of several specialists, e.g., in the services of air-conditioning, artificial lighting, acoustics and other services. Architect of today, who has the vision and who knows the languages of various specialists, has contributed to successful architecture by inspiring the confidence of the various specialists in building and through a cooperative effort.
Whatever may be the outcome of architectural research for architectural principles, the above are the evident basis on which there is an agreement of the majority of architects in the profession and may perhaps form a basis for research for ‘Principles in Architecture today’.
A discussion of the Formulation of a National Policy brings us to find ways and means by which we could agree on stylistic principles and refine the architectural expression and thus evolve a ‘style’ of modern architecture or in other words bring about classicism in architecture of today. The Formulation of a National Policy for Architectural Expression, that is enforcing architecture through governmental order, or law, will neither work nor is desirable for several reasons:—
In a democratic government, no style can be enforced by law. In architecture, there can be many approaches of solution for one problem, unlike a mathematical equation which is satisfied by only one answer. History proves that when architecture was nationalised in the 19th century, no one quite knew its meaning. Ruskin adopted Gothic, William Morris rustic, and other architects adopted Renaissance and the government was puzzled about what was happening. In architecture, style can become a blind alley if it has no merits to recommend, e.g., of new challenge of structure, form and function. If a few people in the Government formulate a national policy and if the Government forces these people to force on architects a particular style-say all buildings must be in “traditional” Indian style, based on Mughal architecture which was significant in its own day, in the use of materials and methods of construction and true to the ways of life then, it would be like journeying by bullock carts, in spite of the availability of quicker and more efficient means of transport. This would mean an end of architecture itself.
What is the Solution?
In the past, architecture grew naturally and the principles of architecture too, because of the slow and orderly development in the methods of construction and limited number of building materials at hand and thus a ‘style’ or ‘classicism’ became a matter of course.
Whereas today, the tempo of change and the availability of materials and techniques of construction are so many and varied, that it has become impossible for a single architect to seek for principles of architecture without a systematic research in the various aspects as discussed in the beginning., e.g., climate, environment, social forces and materials.
Thus, if we have certain principles of architecture, which are established through systematic research, they would go a long way in disciplining today’s architecture and the various forms made possible refined, so that a new ‘style’ would, be established which would not only help to curb ‘fashions’ in architecture but also curb “timidity in practice”; these would also help education as due to want of generally accepted principles in architecture and due to the present diversity in the matters of ‘styles’ and various ‘isms’ in architecture, it has become difficult, and they would also help the proper techniques and materials to be evolved for a new ‘style’ in architecture. And a style thus evolved would inspire the confidence of the people and would be accepted and recognised by them as a new style’ of our time.
For today’s architecture and its architectural expression, evolved through systematic research and acceptable by all, the proper place where this could be achieved seems to us a proper University—as it is here that a proper analysis of various forces that shape architecture could be done and principles for modern architecture could be evolved through intensive studies on the basis of what is good and desirable for our country and a particular place. Since architects in practice have seldom enough time to search deep for the principles which would be based on a comprehensive study of all aspects of architectural expression—and it is through proper Schools of Architecture that a thought nucleus for new architecture would emerge.
Architects in profession, working on these principles, will be able to discipline the architectural expression and thus provide material for the University to think and evolve further, and thus, and thus only, architectural forms of today of concrete and steel, frame and skin, slab and shell will be disciplined and refined further and give a true architectural expression of today and a new style will come to be recognised and accepted by architects and the people. The Principles of Architecture thus evolved would go a long way, as the basis on which architectural education could be imparted to future architects who in turn will be able to give a true architectural expression in future.
Finally we arrive at the following conclusions:—
- Formulation of a National Policy will not be possible nor is it desirable for the reasons discussed.
- There is an urgent need for Architectural Research on the lines we have discussed for the architecture of today and consequently architectural expression.
- It is the responsibility of the profession and here the Government can enforce by law (this applies to our country in particular) to see that only Architects practise Architecture.
- Universities, where future architects are trained, must be entrusted with the work of Architectural Research and the profession should help and cooperate in this matter, because it is ultimately the Universities whose product—the future architects, who will be shaping Architecture and hence architectural expression.
- We can well imagine “why people don’t see a work of art although they live with it” in our country when even in America today, in 1958, eight out of ten people are either vague or misinformed about architecture and are not prepared to accept modem architecture as a ‘style’ (P/A Nov., 1958). It is, therefore the responsibility of the profession to make people conscious and well info about the profession, its work and the responsibility, instead of showing a withdrawn, introspective-you-won’t understand-so I won’t-attitude. This can be done by holding exhibitions and illustrated lectures on best works of architecture from all over the world.
- Government and semi-Government bodies must recognise fully the responsibility of the architects in service and so also Corporations or similar bodies and they must give a free scope and due responsibility to architects in service as well as architects in profession.
- There should not be either a governmental order or political interference in the matters of architectural profession. Finally we must admit that the production of pleasant environment—or architecture does not come about by chance or by law but as a result of a dedicated passion and a sense of service and it is the ultimate responsibility of our profession to sec that architectural education which provides the product—the future architects—and the profession which provides architecture of today work together. We have no doubt that architecture of today and architectural expression, that will thus emerge will be recognised and accepted as a ‘style’, which will provide inspiration for further evolution for future profession.
We would be failing in our duty if we do not appreciate and recognise the selfless services of such people both in the field of education and profession who are working today with this spirit in various parts of the world, for it is these people, in fact, who have raised our profession in spite of adverse conditions around and it is these people who inspire and, therefore they deserve real appreciation and admiration for their dedicated service for the architecture today.